Drenge at Electric Brixton-3/04/2019

I was excited to see “Drenge” after a three year gap. They have been away for a while and the two brothers that were the core of “Drenge” have now grown to a band of four.

This reflects the growing maturity of their music and an evolution into something bigger than the old band.

I had done my research purchasing the new album “Strange Creatures” in advance of last night. Although in some ways not as immediately accessible as the first two albums it is a progression and there are strong threads from their previous work.

On the night they obviously gave the new songs a run out and they all work really well. It is difficult to sometimes work out what is from the back catalogue and what is new.  Songs that worked well were “Strange Creatures” and “Bonfire of the City Boys “(that bass line is awesome and dominates the track). “Autonomy “ which is a sort of cross over track from old to new also hit the spot.

I was hoping not to be disappointed by them being away for so long but they are truly a great rock and roll band. The power and precision of the performance was in your face from start to finish. I would say live the new album feels like their best work. As with most bands the older numbers are not necessarily played with the same love as before or are changed or embellished to better represent the present as against the past.

Good job all round and would be missing them already.

Set List:

  1. Prom Night
  2. Bonfire of the City Boys
  3. Never Awake
  4. Autonomy
  5. Face Like a Skull
  6. Teenage Love
  7. Never See the Signs
  8. The Woods
  9. Backwaters

(Alternate version)

  1. Running Wild
  2. Blood sports
  3. This Dance
  4. People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck
  5. Strange Creatures
  6. Let’s Pretend
  7. Encore:
  8. When I Look Into Your Eyes
  9. We Can Do What We Want

 

Support was originally supposed to be “Wytches” who unfortunately pulled out at the last minute. I spoke to a couple of guys who had come just for “Wytches” so hadn’t heard of “Drenge” before. Which is a shame as I see quite a few similarities between the bands in terms of feel and application to their music.

On the night support was provided by five piece “Valeras” who hail from Reading. Three girls and two guys they are all still in their teens but played some strong rock songs. They are ones to watch and have strong mainstream appeal would be my opinion. I hadn’t researched before viewing so didn’t have any preconceptions. They play on the rock side of musical genres rather than being indie or alternative.

Only comment I would make is that some songs ended abruptly without really reaching any sort of climax. I have seen this before with other bands where it’s almost as if they haven’t quite got the song to a level of maturity where they know how to end it. No doubt they will rework some of this along the way.

They looked like they were enjoying themselves, which is always good and the level of musicianship was sky high for such a young band.

With the right management and a bit of luck these guys will be playing some big stages in the future.

The venue is one I like as it’s never so crowded that you can’t move around and the audience were fairly chilled. Only complaint as no doubt mentioned before is paying £5.50 for a can of Redstripe.

Calva Louise- BBC introducing at The Lexington-7/03/2019.

 

Out at a BBC introducing show at the Lexington. Good intimate venue for those that don’t know it. Supposedly sold out there was a little bit more space than normal so possibly numbers had been restricted.

First band of the evening was “Fuzzy Sun” from Stockport. A very competent band my research suggested they were a little bit progressive /psychedelic. In reality they were channelling 70’s funky basslines with strong melodies over the top. They had a small but loyal following in the crowd, many of whom seemed to know each song intimately.

They have recently supported Blossoms on their national tour so assuming they got some good visibility from that.  They were musically in control of their output and did 30 minutes of good but not for me memorable songs.

Next support were “Feet” from Coventry. Billed as Brit Pop for the current generation on first hearing they had something of “Cabbage” about them. This was probably due to their collective self-confidence and elements of humour dotted about the performance. Songs like “Petty Thieving” and new single “The Weather “being cases in point.

They play songs with varied tempos (sometimes within the song). All the musicians add to what is essentially a traditional rock sound. Drummer and bass provide solid backing, allowing the guitarists to be a bit more experimental with sound. Definitely left me wanting more which is always good.

The sound quality is invariably good at the Lexington which means you get a much better overall audible experience i.e. you can actually hear most of the vocals clearly.

Headliners were “Calva Louise”. First saw these guys a couple of years ago and was impressed then with the tightness of the three band members and there unique sound .I think that still applies,

Called bubble gum punk by some I enjoy them every time I see them and they put a smile on your face. In the interim I’ve seen them a couple more times and they have now released there first album “Rhinoceros”.

They didn’t disappoint on the night. Jess’s voice is spot on and she handles a range of vocals without faltering. Ably backed by the two guys on drums and bass but Jess is the visual draw.  They all look like they are having fun which is quite refreshing and what looks like real genuine chemistry on stage.

The inter song banter is very self deprecating and surely these guys should be bigger than they are. What they need is a major tour support slot to give them that impetus I would say.

Great show and good venue.

Culture Abuse at the Camden Boot Room-30/02/2019.

Got a free entry to see Culture Abuse at the Camden Boot room in Camden stables. I like “Culture Abuse” having seen them a couple of times before but they were being billed as singing a few “Sex Pistols” covers. This in the end did not happen but we certainly got a high energy 40 minute set with people bouncing off the low ceiling and lights whilst others tried to swing from the stage lighting gantry. So pretty full on for those young enough to sneer at serious injury.

The venue only takes about 60 people so when confronted by a queue of about 300 outside I thought my chances of entry were slim. But after having a word with the custodian of the list of people who had registered I miraculously got in. So it was a free concert and to top it off free drinks, either Brew dog or Jack Daniels (assuming it was due to licencing).

“Culture Abuse” certainly bring the energy to a venue like this and as mentioned earlier they rattled through many of the highlights of their two albums. Songs such as “Chinatown” and” Bee Kind to the Bugs” actually sound better live, as the production on some tracks off their albums does blunt the raw edges.

They do have a style of their own tinged with a clear love of 70’s punk and reggae. They play heartfelt songs with danceable beats such as “Calm E”, “Dream On” as well as sing along choruses such as “Turn it Off”. Despite requests there were no cover versions offered (ha, ha!).

On the evening they had support from a band I’ve not come across so far called “High-Vis”.  Just serendipity but I  met two band members outside while I was moaning about the queue. We got chatting and they said although they didn’t like the idea of pigeonholing their music they sounded a bit like “New Order” meets punk. I think at times that was quite accurate, although I did hear a bit of the “Motors “in there somewhere. They clearly had some fans in tow as they got only a slightly less rapturous welcome than the headliners. Played a solid 30 minute set with rock solid musicianship. Songs of modern life and struggle seemed to be the order of the day. Nothing wrong with that I would say.

I had said to the two guys outside that I would check them out if didn’t get in. I’ve seen they are playing support at the Victoria in Dalston so might make a detour for that to hear them again. Great evening in a small evening with added anxiety that might not get in. Makes you feel alive.

Toy at Village Underground-20/02/2019

Took a visit to the Village Underground near Liverpool st station to see “Toy” as they have just launched what is there fourth album. The audience was suitably shoe gazey and “Toy” are one of those bands that I expected great things from a few years ago when I first saw them. I really liked there first two albums and used to play them in the car repeatedly.

They opened there set with a few new songs as far as I could tell form my strategic position near the sound desk (assumed this might be the best sound). In the live setting when they rock out and let’s be honest this band are very much in the tradition of the prog rock bands of the early 70’s they sound a little like Status Quo. Depending on your persuasion that’s obviously good or bad. I just found that on the night they didn’t really elevate their music to any new height that really thrilled me.

I had arrived early as per usual to check out the support. First band called “The Shadracks” consisted of female bassist and drummer and male vocalist/guitarist. I mention this because it’s a bit of a trend it seems. Does it add a different dynamic I don’t know? But on reflection a few of my favourite bassists in current bands do seem to be women. Thinking of “Future of the Left” or “Savages” for example.

Anyway they played multiple short songs in the 2 minute to 2.30 range. Some worked, some needed more work and they genuinely seemed to be trying stuff out. The singer both visually and delivery wise reminded me of Bowie back in his early London Boys days, a bit of a cheeky ,cockney chappie vibe. This comparison might clearly be a bit over the top but interesting all the same. Referring to their Facebook page it looks like their mission is to turn the clock back 40 years. I think they were close to accomplishing that.

The most notable aspect of their set was a cover of “Alternative TV’s” song “Splitting in Two”. It was there last and best song but I am intrigued at the choice. Clearly not random and it prompted me to go back and listen to the original album, which was a pretty random collection of songs 40 years ago.

It has left me wanting to know a bit more so probably did its job.

Second support was “Adrena, Adrena” which is a collaboration of visual artist Daisy Dickinson and drummer E-Da Kazuhisa. I was happy to indulge their musings for 30 minutes and it consisted of some synth rhythms, what has to be regarded as rock solid drumming (without being over indulgent) and someone manipulating images on an 8ft diameter circular orb from their laptop.

It was hypnotic and engaging and kind of therapeutic as it washed over you. It was worth seeing/hearing but not something I would enthusiastically seek out.

The evening was therefore quite an eclectic mix and it wasn’t clear if this was a curated effort or just a random coming together of various talents.

An aspect that I really enjoyed on the evening was the DJ, Rhys Webb, who provided the music between the acts. He played a vast array of DUB music, which I haven’t heard for probably 40 years in any quantity. Sounded great on the PA in the venue and really took me back in time. It also provided a real laid back feel to the whole evening. Really enjoyable.

Overall an eclectic mix of artists and a nice feel to the whole evening. Drinking at the Village Underground is not hugely recommended as its limited to a few brands in 330ml cans at £4.80 a pop. My recommendation is therefore to embrace the atmosphere but do your drinking elsewhere if you really need to.

Meatraffle and Sleaze- Windmill,Brixton-13/02/2019

Meatrafle 3

 

I have not been to the Windmill for a while but it’s always a great, small, intimate venue. It’s still a magnet for the cool muso’s of South London and the audience was made up of the weird and the wonderful and a fair smattering of Fat white old blokes as usual.

Being a school night I didn’t stay for the headliners and left with the place literally heaving with bodies.

First band on stage were “Sleaze”, whose lead singer is from Camberwell and they are certainly clearly part of the current South London Scene. I have not seen them before. The front man has the necessary charisma to give them a strong visual focus, with a resemblance to Eugene from “Gogol Bordello”. The band look suitably non-fashion types giving them the necessary kudos to be viewed as serious musicians.

From my research this might be about the fifth or sixth incarnation of the band due to line up changes and some of the songs have been a few years in the making. I made out a couple of songs that are also on YouTube such as “Rapunzel” and “Push Tuck” and another song which was about not being a monster which I hope was ironic.

In the live setting they have elements of “Phobophobes “about them, probably due to the synth meanderings and a slight nod to psychedelia in a “Doors” stylie. They have also been mentioned in the same sentence with “Talking Heads” but not sure I get that. They were competent and confident and as is the way at the Windmill they tend to be quite democratic by rotating billing so my understanding is that “Sleaze” are a recurrent feature of the “Windmill” line up.

From my perspective I would certainly 100% seek them out again.

Next on stage were “Meatraffle” a perennial favourite. I was close to the front and had a good viewing spot. They played a few new songs, mixed in with some old favourites. ‘The Horseshoe” always get a strong reaction and there was also “I am not a bird” (sung by Zsa Zsa Sapien) and “Love Hz”. A number of tracks are punctuated by the  horn section, which is rare in a band of this type .Their sound is moving in a more melodic direction I would say in the live setting. The first album is very eclectic and could be considered by some as a difficult listen. But having said that they have stuck to their musical principles which is great for us music snobs, who need our guilty pleasures and don’t want our favourites to enter the alternative mainstream.

One of the good things about the “Windmill” is it seems to me to be very safe space. When there by myself I invariably getting chatting and people are generally friendly. If someone bumps you by mistake they are usually extremely apologetic. It contrasts strongly with larger venues where there is often an increasingly drunk and loutish element in attendance. Perhaps that’s my age talking but no one really wants to be bothered by aggressive drunks.

Long live the Windmill!

Future of the left- Lexington 10th Anniversary -8/2/2019.

Note: Couldn’t find the banner for 8th 🙂

I first saw “ Future of the Left “ at the closing event for the Coronet Theatre  in Elephant and Castle in December 2017 and was duly impressed with the energy and musicianship ,especially the driving bass lines. In the live setting there duelling guitars and bass lines draw comparisons with “Gang of Four” or “Rage Against the Machine”. Not a bad thing I would say. Lyrically they have something to say as you would imagine but there is very often  underlying humour which I would say actually gives the songs greater longevity as opposed to being a pure dialectic rant, which could get old far more quickly and dated.

This was there second night at the Lexington in celebration of the Venues 10th Anniversary. Have to say I thought it had been a music venue forever. An intimate venue I was intrigued at how they would sound. The bass wasn’t quite as powerful as my last listening but they entertained an enthusiastic audience with 19 songs, drawn from numerous albums with a couple from upcoming new album “Christian Fitness”.

They played for approximately 80 minutes. Despite being around since 2006 they sound pretty fresh to my ears and attacked all songs with 100% enthusiasm. Despite maintaining a level of rawness in the live performance, having read a little about the band, they definitely have a level of perfectionism bubbling below the surface that belies this and is attributed to the vison of vocalist Andy Falkous.

In the current political landscape it’s interesting to consider their appeal based on the fact that they are clearly not apolitical. The crowd was pretty mixed from student types through to the smattering of fat white old blokes but perhaps the left leaning nature of the band will assist rather than hinder in the UK’s brave new political world.

Support was provided by “Right Hand, Left Hand” also from Wales who are clearly very competent multi-instrumentalists. But you can probably sense a” but” here in my tone as I am slightly giving faint praise.

I was talking to a marketing specialist this week who said to me that “you need to decide what market you’re going for and then what benefits and individual differentiation you bring to that market”. Unfortunately the same rules really apply in music and other than enjoying themselves (which I think is a justifiable end game and shouldn’t be underestimated) it wasn’t clear what they wanted to say. That was partly because their set was very instrumental biased with limited vocals.

This is my opinion and accept that to others ears this may have absolutely hit the spot and been the modern version of the old Punk D.I.Y ethic. But just a bit too much technology for me.

Overall a great venue, good entertainment and a headliner that left the audience wanting more. “Future of the Left “are an underrated and underappreciated band, they still have plenty of fire and play a high energy set. Look forward to the next time.

Set List (courtesy of Set list .com)

The Lord Hates a Coward

My Gymnastic Past

Miner’s Gruel

Arming Eritrea

The Limits of Battleships

Failed Olympic Bid

Manchasm

Eating for None

You Should Be Ashamed, Seamus

(mclusky cover)

Stand By Your Manatee

Gareth Brown Says

(mclusky cover)

How to Spot a Record Company

French Lessons / Singing of the Bonesaws / Lapsed Catholics / Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues

 

Three additional songs were unknown from the new album.

 

Architects at SSE Wembley-19/01/2019

Firstly a few words about the venue. I would not have chosen SSE Wembley as a great music venue. It’s vast and hanger like with insufficient toilets for the number of people and the bars and food are not great.

In current times everyone has to go through a metal detector to get in and I did notice on the way out that access is severely restricted, again I assume for security reasons.

But on the positive side it didn’t actually take long to get in to the standing area and the sound quality is actually very good but on the headliners set in some ways that album quality did make it sound a little lifeless.

Arrived at 7.30 and missed the second support “Polaris” from Australia so first band I saw were “Beartooth”. They had a good following in the hall and are hard-core post punk with a little bit of humour added in. They did a reasonable rendition of Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop on the album “Aggressive” (their second LP) and did a good job of warming the crowd, despite the cavernous venue.

Band changes were also reasonably efficient and “Architects” hit the stage about 9.15. I saw these guys’ couple of years back at Brixton O2, so they have clearly expanded their following since then (although there were empty seats). They had just released “All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us” and were touring shortly after the death of guitarist Tom Searle, one of the founding members, who died from skin cancer.

The Brighton based band clearly have a loyal following, this being their biggest headline to date, and possibly an unusual occurrence for a band of this musical genre.

Current album “Holy Hell” released in 2018 is inevitably a little bit more melodic as compared to the full on nihilism of “All our Gods…” The punters around me seemed to feel they played the better tracks from the new album with some older stuff such as “Naysayer” and “Gravedigger” and “Nihilist”. As is probably inevitable they featured the latest album heavily (See set list below)

They had a big light show to accompany the set and some serious pyrotechnics. Despite being about of a third of the way back in the standing area the heat was immediate and intense so it must have been singed eyebrows at the front.

  1. Death Is Not Defeat
  2. Modern Misery
  3. Nihilist
  4. Broken Cross
  5. Holy Hell
  6. Royal Beggars
  7. Gravedigger
  8. Mortal After All
  9. Downfall
  10. Naysayer
  11. These Colours Don’t Run
  12. A Match Made in Heaven
  13. Hereafter
  14. A Wasted Hymn
  15. Memento Mori

(Middle Section Only)

  1. Encore:
  2. Gone With the Wind
  3. Doomsday